Sunday 24 June 2018

Wounded Healers


Let's start by acknowledging just how human we all are.  Generally, we do the best we can.  Even if I don't like or agree with what you do, I imagine you are doing it in a way that suits you.  Whatever happens, we do what we do because 1.  We choose to and 2.  We think it's right to do it.

All of us make choices and all of us live as a consequence of what we choose to do or think or be.  Yes - and some are more aware than others.  Awareness aside, we still make our choices according to what is best for us, even if that is to collude with difficult situations so that we don't suffer.  We do dreadful things because at that moment it seems the right thing to do. 

Culture, tradition, experience, society all form us.  There are so many factors that influence our choices and who we are.  I could get away with showing my face in some places, and not in others.  I could make the decision not to have that thirteenth packet of crisps because my experience has shown me it doesn't work for me, and finally I am acting on it.  I may defer unquestionably to authority in some places, in others I may decide to be a rebel.  We are all different, we are all unique and we respond to the events in our lives in our own unique way.

And Yet ....

We are the same.  In so many ways, we are the same.  We want to be happy, loved, safe, satisfied.  We like to be in families, in communities, to be seen, listened to, supported and to belong.  We like, in so many words, to find our tribe and belong to it.  Most of us love our children, most of us love our parents, all of us bleed when cut and all of us experience loss, sadness, rejection and distress.  And illness.  And not many of us like to be threatened, attacked or ignored.

In all societies there are healers, doctors, helpers, care givers.  I mean the professionals who have made a decision to be of service, who feel they have a gift, a qualification, experiences, offering support, insight and kindness to their communities.  These people all want to make us feel better.  That is their choice.  And when it works, it is magnificent.  A relief.  When it doesn't work, it can be a worry but we keep going till we find someone who can help.  It isn't fun to experience a healer who makes us feel worse, though a good healer should be aware of their boundaries and the limits of their capabilities.  But of course, being human, it's really trial and error in finding a good healer, and a good healer is someone we are comfortable with, believe in and are happy with.  We understand we may have to try a few before coming to one we like.

The Nub of the Matter

Here's the thing.  If we are practising healing, how do we stop our own stuff from getting in the way?  Generally we won't notice if our healer's unresolved thing is uppermost in our session.  As long as we feel better and enjoy the session, we won't notice. Healers are also only human, and I think it is impossible to be utterly and totally objective (our humanness means we are not robots, what with our free will and feelings and getting things wrong as well as right and so on).  The healer's issues are bound to influence them to some degree, poor loves, but only a tiny bit and the idea is that it does not get in the way of our stuff. 

But, what if we feel our healer gets it wrong?  What do we do then, and what are we to think?  What if the healer's Stuff really is in the way and we notice it and they don't? It's tough one.  We get off the treatment table, pay them and think, I feel worse.  And the healer probably thinks, Whoa! Magic!  I feel better!

It isn't easy for us to pay the healer and then say, that was a load of old cobblers.

Magic?  Where?  Cobblers more like

Experiences of the Nub.

Here are two experiences of Healer's Stuff that I recently experienced.  The first I will call misguided, the second I will call careless.

Misguided.  Healer One.  This healer was a chance meeting.  We met socially at a function, with other healers and interested parties. I asked the usual questions (how are you, what do you do) and listened as Healer One told me at length what they did, and though it was interesting, I did not completely follow it.  At some point, I realised Healer One was actually doing some healing.  For some reason, I didn't feel quite in control, and allowed Healer One to continue, though I was less comfortable as the experience unfolded.  It seemed to get stranger and stranger, much of what Healer One said was insightful and possibly very helpful, but it didn't feel right.  This session went on for a long time, I did not feel good, and by the end I had lost the will to live.  Healer One was totally in control and convinced that I was receiving a much needed gift.  I noticed too that most people had respectfully left us alone, possibly delighted to see that so much goodness was being delivered.  Healer One left me with some notes on the session to help me, and moved on to chat to others.  I was left clutching the notes, wanting to die, and possibly take Healer One with me.

Healer One made some fundamental mistakes.  First, I was not consulted.  I did not give my permission.  Second, when I did comment I was not listened to and made to feel disrespectful.  Third, Healer One paid no attention to me or my body language (which was probably classic WTF).

Healer One left me far from healed. I was angry, violated, bored (I think it may have been interesting in parts but it was so not about me in any way) and sapped.  I was also confused. How on earth could this have happened and how, if I am so clever, did I let it continue?  What was all that about?

I think Healer One, who makes a living as a healer, had an ego problem.  I do healing, and soul midwifery, and art and writing and workshops and I suspect they knew a little bit about that.  It felt like Healer One went on a bit of an ego competition rampage.  On the surface, Healer One probably thought I was lucky to have received such intense and personal attention, what a gift.  Subconsciously Healer One probably thrust a fist in the air and exclaimed Gotcha!  I won!  Eat dirt, looser!

Yes, I burned all the notes when I got home.  It was a properly angry reaction and made me feel as if I had had a little ego moment too.

I did NOT give my permission, goddamit

Careless.  Healer Two.  This was a session I booked, having heard of a very nice healer in my area.  I was going to love her, I was told.  I looked forward to it, ready to adore her if necessary.

Healer Two was good at her job.  The room was lovely with scented candles and lots of reassuring artwork on the walls.  From the moment I arrived, Healer Two told me about herself.  I learned a lot about what she thought, a lot about what she did, and a lot about who said nice things about her.  The work she did on me was not what I asked for, but I didn't mind.  Healer Two said she was drawn to do this, and that, and whatever, before doing a bit of what I had actually booked her for.  It was very nice though, she was good at her work.  As the session went on, she gave me feedback, and told me what she was picking up about me.  It was twaddle.  I thought, you have not yet asked me a single question about myself, you have no idea what I am feeling, thinking or even what I do, you have no idea why I am here or what for.  What are you talking about?

I need to be kind to myself, I am suffering grief, I need to do what my heart wants. Most of us are in this position, the man at the petrol station could have told me that.  What I think happened with Healer Two is that she had become complacent, self satisfied and made assumptions. It was the assumptions that made me cross.  She know a bit about me before I arrived, and the assumptions were based on what she had picked up from my friend.  The assumptions were wrong, and though the massage was good, I lost interest in her very quickly.  It felt she had no interest in me, so I just lay back and felt aggrieved. 

I'm going to lie back and feel agrieved

Wounded Healers

We are all wounded.  If we train as healers, these wounds and experiences can give us insight, compassion, wisdom.  We will meet other wounded people who come to us to find some relief, some quiet, some help.  It is part of our role to get a grip on ourselves.  We can only heal if we have permission.  We must be careful of making assumptions.  In our healing sessions, it is not about us, it is about our client.  We must be respectful, we mustn't strive for brownie points and we must notice if our client looks annoyed or has lost the will to live.  I don't think we must be too detached either, that is just as bad as being too familiar.  There is a loving respectful balance - giving a little of ourselves in order to benefit our client is good.

A big part of healing is the ability to listen.  Listen well, with your whole attention, and let the client be heard.  Perhaps all of us who do healing do it in character.  We heal as ourselves, in character as ourselves which makes me think that work on ourselves must be ongoing.  To know ourselves, warts and all, to know our foibles, failings, as well as being aware of our good points (kindness, empathy, compassion, honesty, interest in the client etc) is a the only way we can be effective. 

Healers who work on their own wounds, who look to their own healing so that they can offer whatever it is they offer well, have my admiration and respect.  They are healers that are working on their wounds.  Better than being the wounded working on their healing. Grrrr.